By the end of this year, film enthusiasts will never again have to explain the concept of kaiju to bewildered laymen. A Japanese word roughly meaning “giant beast” or “monster,” this blanket term refers to a popular genre of films about city-crushing creatures such as Gojira (Godzilla), Gamera, Megalon, Mothra, and King Ghidorah. For decades, most people have known what a kaiju is, but until Pacific Rim, there were many who did not know that they knew.
This is only one virtue of a movie that gets almost everything right, and whose various minor flaws cannot dampen an overall sense of triumph. We will escape this summer with at least one fully satisfying action blockbuster, and this is it. Continue reading →
by Dan Fields
First published January 16, 2013 by the California Literary Review
Mama Don’t Allow
For any director hoping to bring visions of terror and wonder to the screen, the patronage of Guillermo del Toro is a good place to start. Several years ago, director Andres Muschietti made a tiny and very creepy short film called Mamá about two little girls fleeing from something whose appearance is a crude mockery of what children should call by that name. Now, with del Toro as producer, he tackles the subject again at thirty times the scale. Mama is a movie of weight and a certain dark beauty. It is unlikely to change history, and has a handful of minor problems, but it deserves more than a January release, the exile by which many unwatchable horror movies go to die quietly. Mama is not only watchable, but engaging and at times even powerful.
Victoria and Lily are sisters who, when scarcely more than toddlers, become abruptly orphaned in the woods one day. The family crisis that got them there is rather graceless and contrived, but basically the standard parental element failed them in a big way. Alone and vulnerable, they come into the care of an indistinct but monstrous entity which they learn to call “Mama.” Over several years, the girls regress to a feral state in the idyllic squalor of the forest, little suspecting that civilization wants them back. Continue reading →
Guillermo del Toro has a gift all too rare in movies today – a terrific imagination. Like Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam before him, he sometimes gets a little too mired in imagery to pay attention to the rest of the movie, but given the right story he can craft a thing of true beauty.
El Laberinto Del Fauno has had words like “parable,” “fable,” and “fairytale” hung upon it, and it has the right ingredients to be all of these successfully. Its simple and moving story about the power of imagination and spiritual purity over real-world oppression blossoms with both gorgeous and grotesque images. A young girl, caught up in the turbulent fallout of the Spanish Civil War, discovers her link to a magical world away from all the struggle and strife.
Charged with a number of hair-raising quests, she fights not only to save herself but also her mother and unborn brother, living under the thumb of her cruel military stepfather.
This movie hits a lot of high and low notes, and Del Toro’s airtight sense of style transports us seamlessly back and forth from the heartbreaks of everyday life to the fantastic places hidden carefully in the seams of our world.
Fairy tale though it may be, this movie is no lightweight affair. The “real” world of the film is a violent and oppressive place, and the world of the fantastic offers many horrors as well. There is enough of the gruesome and brutal to help us understand how beautiful and essential the alternatives are, especially with lives and souls on the line.